Tens of thousands of Syrians flood into Jordan to escape war
Published Tuesday, January 29, 2013 10:04PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, January 30, 2013 8:43AM EST
More than 21,000 Syrian refugees have crossed into Jordan in the last week alone, overwhelming the country’s sole refugee camp and stretching already-limited resources.
Andrew Harper of the United Nations refugee agency in Jordan said Syrians are now crossing the Jordanian border at about five times the usual daily rate.
At a border crossing near the southern town of Tal Shehab on Tuesday, a group of Syrian refugees quietly trickled across the border into Jordan. Some of them were badly wounded, relying on crutches and fellow Syrians to help them across.
Still, they told CTV News they’re thankful to have made it.
“Thank God we are in Jordan. I want to get as far away from Syria as possible,” one female refugee said.
At this particular crossing, the refugees can safely move into Jordan.
“There is an empty Syrian Crossing point here, therefore the area is safe for them… they can cross with their families safely,” Lt.-Col. Assah Al Drayde of the Jordanian army said, gesturing to an open field.
However at a nearby border crossing -- marked by bullet-ridden white buildings -- refugees risk being shot, Al Drayde said.
“If they cross from there, I think they will get some shots. They will… the army soldiers will shoot at them,” he said.
A Free Syrian Army fighter confirmed to CTV News that government soldiers routinely shoot at Syrians who attempt to cross the border.
Despite being in relative safety in Jordan, many of the refugees refuse to speak to reporters, fearing that regime soldiers will go after relatives back home in Syria.
Once the refugees cross into Jordan, they are moved by truck to an army border post.
Soldiers help the refugees off the trucks and distribute food and supplies to the children, as they wait to be processed by Jordanian officials.
The UN has said the sudden influx of refugees into Jordan is far more than they expected and the agency needs more funding to support newcomers at the Zaatari refugee camp.
The refugee camp -- the sole camp in all of Jordan -- is already struggling with flooding, tent fires and thin supplies. Now, more money is needed to build more showers, toilets and a school.
UNICEF representative Dominque Hyde said officials did not anticipate the sudden stream of refugees.
"We were expecting larger numbers in the new year, but not the 3,000 a day that have been coming across to Zaatari camp," she said.
Jordan has received around 320,000 Syrian refugees and around 20 per cent live in the Zaatari camp. The rest live in northern communities.
The UN said more than 700,000 Syrians have fled into neighbouring countries ever since the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad began 22 months ago.
With a report from CTV’s Middle East Bureau Chief Martin Seemungal in Tal Shehab and files from The Associated Press